Oct 14

Twitter and the MDGs

To test the hypothesis whether social media in the form of blog posts and twitter have any influence on the discourses of international development, Tobias Denskus and Daniel E. Esser collected tweets and blogposts related to the Millennium Development Goals during a period in 2010. By analysing tweets and blog posts around the UN High-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals held in 2010 the authors gained insights in how social media is used in relation to high level conferences. Their conclusion, as presented in an article in the Third World Quarterly[1], is that the social media sphere failed to bring forward alternative agendas
and priorities, and rather reinforced the current ideas around international development. Their analysis of tweets also showed that a majority of tweeters were closely related to organisations part of the MDG work, such as Save the Children or Amnesty International. Denskus and Esser used the service www.topsy.com for their analysis and performed searches on the hashtag (#) MDG for every hour during the High-level conference. Three years after said conference, on September 25th 2013, the President of the UN General Assembly held a follow-up meeting to take stock of the situation with the MDG:s. Using a similar method to Denskus and Esser, I intended to test whether Continue reading →

Oct 14

(Sl)activism – Progress or Stagnation?

Johannes Kast reflects on the meaning of slacktivism in the context of social progress.

The compensation effect” or “moral self-Licensing” is what psychologists call the ‘ethical credit’ people often reward themselves when having done a good deed. This might be as a result to signing a petition, buying eco-friendly products or doing any other perceived good deed. Further research shows that often times good behaviour now can quickly result in bad behaviour later. Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong found out that people generally act less altruistic and are more likely to steel or cheat after purchasing green products. Anna C. Merritt, Daniel A. Effron and Benoît Monin came to a similar conclusion in their paper: “Moral Self-Licensing: When Being Good Frees Us to Be Bad”.

Slacktivism essentially means engaging in or supporting activism with a minimal amount of effort. This for itself is certainly a welcoming trend, as sharing information creates awareness and giving ethical choices to people with little to no added effort makes them more likely to engage in them. A recent example is the Amazon smile campaign, where part of the price is donated to a pre-selected organisation of your choice. However, when Amazon is taking the burden of charity from the supporter the effect might be bad for aid organisations while very profitable for Amazon. The same was found about liking an organisation on Facebook. It turns out that liking an organisation might actually mean giving them less.

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Oct 14

Social Media in the HK “Umbrella Revolution” a double edged sword? (Slideshow)

Do not miss the slideshow with commentary from our own reporter in Hong Kong – Johannes Kast.

Blockade of Hong Kong "Occupy Central"

Blockade of Hong Kong “Occupy Central”

This autumn, all eyes were on Hong Kong – a Chinese city with its own political and economical system after the “one country, two systems” principle was introduced following the reunification between Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China. This september, after some initial mass protests that got out of control, students and activists blocked the main roads in Hong Kong’s central governmental and financial district on September 29th demanding full suffrage on choosing their cities leader. Since then – with varying numbers of support – the protesters have set up peaceful blockades both in Hong Kong central and in Mong Kok on the mainland, while having to defend themselves against attacks from police armed with tear gas and batons, triad interferences and sometimes even civilian anti-protest groups.

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Oct 14

#ChicagoGirl – ”From my laptop, I am running a revolution in Syria”

An excellent example of the use of social media in development – commentary by Charlotta Duse.



This is a very recommendable documentary about social media citizens journalists and activists in Syria and America, documenting the conflict in Syria (I have only found it with subtitles in Swedish). Although the interviews are a few years old, the content is still very actual.

Sharing via new media

By sharing videos, photos and stories from inside of Syria on social networks the young people we meet in this documentary are trying to shape the world’s view of the events in a country hard for the traditional media to portrait. Via Twitter, Facebook, Youtube etc. these persons have started their own citizens media agency with the goal to spread words and pictures of what is going on in Syria, this by risking their own lives. An added value to the sharing is of course also that people, in Syria or outside of the country, sympathizing with the activists feel a greater security seeing that more people feel the same way as they do – this is social medias gift of joining people together (Kluitenberg. 2003:2). But this of course requires the recourses to find and see the videos by the likeminded, as well as by global audience. 

The geographical distance is no problem – the ubiquity of information is nowadays a fact (Archetti.2011:182). This is one of the many potentials of digital networking and new media: a way of promoting and democratizing knowledge and communication everywhere. But you need to know where to look for it, what is shown to a majority of people is another issue. One can of course question the change a video on youtube makes, if nobody sees it. 

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Oct 14

2014 and the Ministry of Truth | Newspeak: Minitrue

Abigail Leffler says Big Data Brother… one bit at a time

ICT (Internet communications technology) enables gathering of digital data derived from our online interactions and other iterations such as those that come from GPS (Global Positioning System)-equipped devices. This interactivity being ‘a necessary condition for social, cultural and political participation’ (Lievrouw: 2013, p. 15) functions as a catalyst for change, development and humanitarian relief.

Just consider that all the tweets, blogposts and Facebook entries generate big data and so do all the ‘likes’ and endorsements and any other information pointing to user connection networks and to activity levels of individuals on the Net.

To give you an idea of how large big data actually is, every minute of every day we create

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Oct 14

Big, BIG, Data Warbles

Abigail Leffler perchs on the development branch and broods over the content analysis of multilingual tweets and posts

Any collection of signs systematically arranged (or the absence thereof) can be read and interpreted. Edgar Allan Poe’s A Dream within a Dream, Edvard Munch’s The Scream painting, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, a tiger’s territorial markings in the Amur region, mobile phone traffic in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake and all the electronic footprints we ever leave behind by virtue of our Internet usage are examples of this. The key point is that, in our search for patterns or for elements that maintain or break patterns in a sample, we are searching for clues to predicting behaviour or finding trends and hidden messages.

Now for the sake of simplicity and to keep true to the title of this post, let us alight on the analysis and derivation of meaning (a.k.a. interpretation) of our Internet footprints. Let us, furthermore, focus on blogging and microblogging in the context of communication for development.

How do we analyse data from blogs and microblogs? We could be looking at quantitative methods such as collecting the amount of tweets and posts and the frequency thereof, and further we could be looking at the geographical distribution of such entries or at the speed at which they come during or after an event. We could consider which entries are the most influential within a specific period of time. We could also be looking into the qualitative content of such data, and we could be looking into a keyword analysis to gauge sentiments or determine key topics in discourse. And now let us expand on this last point. What are the caveats we need to bear in mind when the analysis is conducted within a globalised, multicultural environment, and where tweets and posts come in forms as diverse as chatter, clucks, quacks, chirps, hoots, coos and caws?

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Oct 14

Open Data: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Abigail Leffler defines and explores the significance of open data used in new and social media in the context of development and social change.

That Gutenberg moment

‘We live in a Gutenberg moment,’ announces Nadine Schuurman, ‘in which we are migrating from book reading to Internet browsing’ (Schuurman: 2013, p. 372). And ever since Johannes Gutenberg and his printing press idea, adds Michael Mandiberg, ‘technological innovations have enabled the dissemination of more and more media forms over broader and broader audiences’ (Mandiberg: 2012, p. 1). Indeed the implications of the Internet phenomenon are far-reaching.

With the advent of Web 2.0 (O’Reilly: 2004, in Mandiberg: 2012, p.2), new forms of communication have emerged. New media (of which social media is a subset) is non-linear, interactive, peer-to-peer in nature. This means that we no longer live in a model where a few dictate what the rest consume: we have become both producers and consumers of online information, and social media in particular provides the infrastructure that facilitates this information sharing. Mandiberg notes that ‘at the end of this first decade of the twenty-first century, the line between media producers and consumers has blurred, and the unidirectional broadcast has partially fragmented into many kinds of multidirectional conversations’ (Mandiberg: 2012, p. 1).

A cacophony of voices

Media participation has thus become part of media consumption. This interactivity is ‘a necessary condition for social, political and cultural participation’ (Lievrouw: 2011, p. 13), making new media an ideal catalyst for social change. The result from this variety of inputs is, as expected, a cacophony of voices singing to us through instruments as diverse as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, the mobile Internet (mobile phones) and YouTube, to name a few. Cacophony may be a disturbing sound but it definitely sets the tone for development and social change. Acknowledgement of dissenting voices leads to democracy at least, and to social change at most.

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